A story about pushing Latinos out of a Kensington area school
By T Martin (as Escritor X)

Almost 1,000 students of the Marianna Bracetti Charter Academy might be flooding public or other charter schools in September if the School Reform Commission upholds its decision to deny the school’s charter renewal request.

Currently, the commission cites poor bookkeeping, incomplete staff background checks and less than 75% certification among teachers as reasons for not honoring the academy’s request for renewal.

And while Academy Executive Director Angela Villani claims the issues introduced by the District have been addressed or are being disputed, numerous complaints from parents also mount up.

Villani, who reportedly has not completed her administrative certification, but has, instead, an emergency license, has been the subject of a number of complaints from parents as well.

Concerning the District’s problems with the school, Villani said that the school administration “is working through this with the school district,” but that she “won’t discuss parental concerns with anyone but the parents.”

The last stand?

Students at Bracetti Charter Academy took first place in the middle school category for their performance in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2003. The performance might be their last as students of the charter school unless rigorous conditions are met by September.

Ida Navarro, former PTA president and mother of two boys enrolled at the school, brought a number of issues with the school and its administration to the attention of Colleen Davis, the academy’s board president.

Following three incidents involving her sons, Navarro says that the school’s administration has been less than professional with her and with other parents. Even after several meetings concerning at least one incident concerning her son, administration has reportedly remained uninviting to Navarro.

The school’s security officers ejected Navarro from a PTA meeting when school administration complained that Navarro “failed to follow procedures,” though she contests that she did.

And that incident was only one of several that have parents crying out “discrimination!” against the school, and parents are growing increasingly impatient with the school’s board of directors and its contentment with the way the school is run.

When Navarro’s son injured himself in a fall – outside school grounds – no nurse was on duty to help him relieve the pain, and he was denied permission to call home to inform his mother about the pain in his leg. Reason: not allowed to call home because “your mother talks to everybody!”

Davis responded to all three incidents involving Navarro and her children, “I’m sorry.” Pressed about the severity of the issues and the concern that school administration is discriminating against parents by humiliating them, Davis added that “the school doesn’t mean to do that.”

Some issues that parents have brought against the school and its administration have been dismissed as “across the board” issues: understaffing, lack of safety, children roaming halls, students’ use of profanity, inconsistent uniform policy and lack of materials, to name a few.

Other concerns, however, are what Navarro calls “a direct violation” of the school’s Latino population.

“Students are leaving the school because they are not satisfied with the administration,” she said. “Good teachers are also leaving for the same reason. The Edison Company has violated the rights of the Hispanic community!”

It’s not enough, Navarro feels, that administration fails to provide the student code of conduct handbook in both English and Spanish, but they also send home letters littered with grammatical and other errors that make some of the school’s communication unintelligible. She added that the school does not send information – in any language – to parents to inform them about PTA meetings. Parents complain about difficulty in getting their needs met due to the fact that the school’s administration is not bilingual.

Parents and administration have gone back and forth about the bilingual issue, parents contending that their bilingual students are not serviced and administration responding that Marianna Bracetti is not a bilingual charter school.

Through all the issues that lead parents to believe that Edison Schools, the for-profit company that manages Bracetti Academy, has worked with the school’s current administration to slowly push away bilingual staff and eventually the Latino students, Navarro and other parents do not want the school to lose its charter.

The school has been “disappointing” from the start for many parents and students, promising programs that do not exist and raising parents’ expectations only to fail to live up to them. Still, parents want to be able to send their children to a better, safer Bracetti Academy.

“We don’t want the school to close,” Navarro said. “We only want the school to progress!”